Almost exactly 23 years ago, I bought 3 yards of cotton fabric at the Liberty of London store in London, England. I still have it today, sitting on a shelf in my craft closet, because over the years, it has become too precious to use. At this point, it would have been more useful if I had simply cut it up for rag rugs or made pillowcases out of it. I’ve come close to using it a few times, looked at patterns or maybe even bought a few, but still that fabric sits on that shelf, mocking me.
You may have experienced the same thing with a blank book. It was so beautiful and perfect, you couldn’t bring yourself to use it. It became precious. In a workshop, the weaver/designer Anita Luvera Mayer gave the class a tip to fix that problem. When she gets a new journal, she immediately pastes a picture on one of its pages to keep the book from becoming special and to allow her to use it as she wishes. Her method works for me for blank books and I wish I could figure out how to use that same technique with yarn!
Here are 6 tips I’ve developed to control my stash rather than letting it control me:
1. Be careful when buying souvenir skeins (those skeins you buy at conferences and when traveling because of their wonderful color, texture, or general loveliness). I’m not saying don’t buy them; just have an idea when you are buying them of what you could use them for, or make a plan as soon as you return home.
2. Don’t hide your stash from view. Given a chance, certain skeins will begin to languish and develop preciousness.
3. Wind skeins into balls as soon as you are able. You really can’t work with a skein and those handpainted yarns can look way too luscious and precious unless they are wound into a useful ball.
4. Sample. This might be the closest I can come to applying Anita’s idea about blank books. Using some of a skein might open your eyes to see it as less than precious.
5. Don’t fear failure. Maybe the item you wove or knit with that precious yarn isn’t the best thing you ever made, but maybe you learned something new while doing it.
6. Give the precious item away. I know this seems counterintuitive, but if something in your stash feels too perfect to use, maybe it should be in someone else’s capable hands. Just like throwing away an ugly sample can feel good, so can giving away something you don’t feel comfortable using.
Use your stash as it was meant to be used: don’t let beautiful and lovely become too precious to use. That can stop you in your tracks.
Published August 16, 2017 Revised December 28, 2020